Planeswalker. Elder Dragon. Tyrant of Worlds. Nicol Bolas is one of the oldest known beings in the Multiverse - he has lived for many millennia. His malevolence is matched only by his boundless intellect.
Nicol Bolas has survived multiple wars, cataclysms, and rivalries: the dragon war that left only five of the elders alive, the destruction of his Madaran Empire on Dominaria at the hands of Tetsuo Umezawa, and epic duels with the planeswalkers Leshrac and Teferi.
Time Rifts and The Mending
Before The Mending, planeswalkers were ageless shapeshifters whose power was limited only by their experience and knowledge. Bolas had that godlike power torn away from him, and he will go to any lengths to get it back. But it will take countless machinations and maneuverings, even for the oldest and most powerful planeswalker of all. For Nicol Bolas, all the power in the Multiverse is not enough.
The efforts and sacrifices of Teferi and his allies to repair the time rifts that swept over Dominaria gave rise to the Final Mending, a sweeping change that repaired the rifts and altered the metaphysics of the planeswalker spark itself. This change to the spark affected Nicol Bolas too. The change has begun to whittle away at the dragon's vast knowledge, diminishing his capacity to maintain his immense share of the multiverse's power, pulling him farther and farther away from his goal of godlike omnipotence. He is aware of this; he can feel his memory and strength beginning to crumble bit by bit. And he's not happy about it.
Bolas left Dominaria as it crumbled in the time before The Mending, implying that it couldn't be saved. "I have prepared a suitable place for myself in that eventuality," he said before departing through the Talon Gates. Thereafter he hides out, observing the effects of the Mending throughout the multiverse, and watching the deterioration happening inside his very soul. For the first time in thousands of years, the clock has actually begun to tick for Nicol Bolas. Hence, his preferred strategy of attaining power - a protracted patience for accumulating knowledge and influence via cunning schemes that span millennia - may not work for much longer. He needed a plan, one that can help him recover his power, or at least stop it from ebbing steadily away - and soon.
He formed a plan to head off this brutal decay, and to not only restore his former glory, but to assume total, unmatched power in the multiverse. Befitting his mighty intellect, his plan has many moving parts, none of which would be obvious to the naked eye. Bolas decides that all he needs is an immense source of mana. To resist the force of the multiverse-wide Mending altering his spark, he'll need the equivalent of the total potential of an entire world, harvested all at once.
The 'suitable place' Bolas referred to is the five shards of Alara, which Bolas has been watching for decades. Long ago he began to recruit agents on the shards - individuals and even entire groups who would secretly do his bidding. These agents have subtly, secretly sown the seeds of dissent on each shard, creating chaos and conflict. Why? Only Nicol Bolas knows the truth: The shards of Alara are reconverging into a single plane. And when that reconvergence comes, Bolas wants all-out planar war for reasons unknown to any but himself.
The shard-planes of Alara caught Bolas's attention soon after he departed Dominaria. Where other planeswalkers saw five separate worlds, Bolas saw a single opportunity. He perceived that the shards had not just originated from a single world, but were destined to come together once more—and soon. He set up a lair on Grixis, using that dark world as a center for his schemes, and over time secretly planeswalked to the other shards, setting up alliances to prepare for the coming Conflux.
Over months and years, he recruited minions to do his bidding throughout the five shards. On Bant, he tempted the Order of the Skyward Eye and the conniving merchant Gwafa Hazid to spread xenophobia and disorder along the borderlands of Bant's nations. On Esper, he infiltrated a group of mages called the Seekers of Carmot, leading them to warn Esperites about dwindling supplies of etherium, and creating a fervent demand for an otherworldly red stone called carmot. On Grixis he recruited the demon dragon abomination Malfegor to lead massive armies of the undead, getting the hordes ready to invade the other shards and cut chaotic swaths through any living resistance they find. On Jund he tempted the elementalist shaman Rakka Mar with promises of power, using her to whip up an itch for greater and greater "life hunts" among the warrior clans there. On Naya his influence has been perhaps the most subtle - even the planeswalker Ajani has had no inkling of the dragon's presence.
During the Conflux, mages all across Alara have realized the power unlocked when they fuse two or more colors of mana. Bant's spellcasters have known for centuries that multicolor spells are potent, but now all Alarans have learned that a battle strategy gets even more powerful by focusing exclusively on these select, color-blended spells. Nicol Bolas knows this too. His sinister plans on Alara required this massive war, particularly the mage-battles that hurl spell energy to and fro. Bolas's brutal cross-shard war has served as a crucible, burning away the scrawniest spells, forcing all of Alara to forge the deadliest magical arsenal possible, and to wield these multicolor weapons on the field of battle.
Luckily, he's still a force to be reckoned with on any world. Mortal minds are just as malleable in his hands as they were when he was the god-emperor of Madara. He may not be omnipotent - but he's plenty potent. But since he has to move more quickly now, his plans may be discovered. Will he be able to enact the early stages of his plan before the forces of Alara get the better of him, and before the attention of planeswalkers becomes too invasive?
The ancient dragon Planeswalker, Nicol Bolas, has never craved anything more than power, and his shrewdness for plotting is matched only by his aeon-spanning patience. Bolas has influenced several recent events around the Multiverse, including conspiring to have Chandra discover the dragon scroll and helping to trigger the release of the Eldrazi on Zendikar—to what end is not yet known. Bolas has appreciated the power of using Tezzeret and Sarkhan as agents in his interplanar schemes, and now seems bent on seeking further Planeswalker minions.
"You will fully understand fear when you discover it is the final thing you put your faith in." -Nicol Bolas (Cower in Fear)
"Birth and death are both reversible." -Nicol Bolas (Soul Manipulation)
"There is no greater folly than standing against me." -Nicol Bolas (Blood Reckoning)
"Where will you run when I punish you with the very ground you flee on?" -Nicol Bolas (Magmaquake)
"The finest pawns are those with pawns of their own." -Nicol Bolas (Rakka Mar)
Nicol Bolas doesn't distinguish between servants and victims. (Slave of Bolas)
"Your pathetic ideas lie in shambles, Planeswalker. Where is your arrogant pride now?" -Nicol Bolas (Wit's End)
"The essence of every world, every spell, and every thought is power. Nothing else matters, because nothing else exists." -Nicol Bolas (Countersquall)
"Do the innocent pay for the crimes of the guilty? Of course they do. That's the fate of the weak." -Nicol Bolas (Imp's Mischief)
Nicol Bolas gives power to those who will abuse it most. (Mindclaw Shaman)